The New York Times has a new article laying out Chris Christie’s shadow campaign for 2016. If you read the piece and look at the donors he is cultivating and the support team he is assembling, it looks very much like Bush’s run in 2000. He’s even spending large amounts of money to drive up support among Latino voters (something Bush in 1998 also).
In theory this all makes sense.
After a bump in the road against John McCain, New Hampshire, Bush was able to win the nomination with the overwhelming support of the party. Outside of McCain’s home state of Arizona the only non-New England state Bush lost was Michigan (see the map on the right). Bush was able to quickly unify the party and get ready for the fall.
Christie would love a repeat of that. Who wouldn’t? But there is a big problem. Chris Christie in 2013 is no George W. Bush in 1998.
First, Bush’s father was President of the United States and the party establishment had a great deal of affection for him and the family. Christie does not have that. In fact, in his one term Christie has alienated many Republicans by his embrace of President Obama after Hurricane Sandy. Even many in the party’s establishment (RNC Committee Members) have said:
“I just really had a little bit of a problem with him embracing Obama. “I’ve got to get over that.”
If that is how member of the national committee feel, what do Iowa Tea Partiers think?
Also, Bush was a perfect cultural fit for the GOP electorate. As a born-again Christian from Texas he looked and sounded just like the party faithful (no pun intended). Christie is a Catholic from the Northeast with a Jersey-accent. So frankly he doesn’t look or sound the part.
We should further keep in mind that back in 1999 there was no Tea Party. In fact, many groups like Citizens for a Sound Economy (the precursor to FreedomWorks and Americans For Prosperity) and Americans for Tax Reform enthusiastically supported Bush both in the primary and general election. Christie will not enjoy that level of support in the primary and is already being attacked for being too pro-big government. His feud with Rand Paul is also not going to help in that regard.
Also, many of the people close to Bush have fallen out of favor with the GOP. Having people close to Karl Rove is only going to further Tea Partiers distrust. Look at how conservatives feel about Rove:
Christie is playing a text book establishment game. But is 2016 the worst time to play that game with such a strongly anti-establishment mood in the party?